From a musical standpoint I am a product of the 80’s and I remember the first time I saw Whitney Houston sing. It was the video “How Will I Know.” I remember thinking at that time that I had never heard such a magical voice from such a naturally beautiful person, to this day when I hear her sing, just about anything, I get goose bumps. When I heard she passed last night I was profoundly sad. Sad that such a magical voice with an almost direct line to the heavens was silenced. My first thought was for myself; my next thought was for her daughter and family. I felt empathy for them; I have experienced so much loss this year and know it will be difficult for them.
My curiosity drove me this morning to try and answer the question, why? Why is she gone and so young, only a year older than me. I was hoping to find an answer that makes sense. Even though logically I know there never is a satisfactory answer to this question. So I started surfing and while “the why” was not there I did find a lot of love and reminiscing for Whitney’s gift and its effect on many of us fans out there. As with the good there was also the bad, there was very strong reaction sprinkled in. While I was reading these negative reactions and seemingly angry discourse I thought to myself, wow it’s almost as if these people were promised something by Whitney herself, that she did not deliver. The reaction was so strong in some cases I was fascinated by these writers’s anger. Why so angry at someone they only knew from TV or the radio?
I always try to come from a place of compassion even with those I do not agree with, I am not always successful but once I remember my intent is compassion, I am able to return to that alignment. Sometimes it just takes longer than others. So I have a great deal of compassion for those people who felt so compelled to share their outrage and negative response to her passing, but I can’t help but wonder, why?
When a person chooses to follow a profession where they are in the public eye does that mean they owe us something? I guess I look at it so differently I value my anonymity in this life. I feel people that choose this path make some very serious sacrifices. They sacrifice privacy, they sacrifice their loved one’s privacy, and they expose themselves to a constant stream of public opinion. Do they benefit financially? Absolutely, although I believe they pay a high price for their wealth and fame.
My husband once asked my uncle Bow about the meaning of life, Bow told him that we are all tribal and if we could realize we are all part of the same tribe we would have peace on earth. We were at a luau in Maui, having fun and really I did not even pay any further attention to what he said and honestly did not appreciate it unless we watched that video recently. When I saw some of the reactions to Whitney’s passing I reflected on the wisdom of Uncle Bow. I think we could be more compassionate if we viewed each other as part of the same tribe instead of viewing each other as members of other tribes.
I believe we all belong to the same human family. Although I myself have to frequently remind myself of that when I encounter someone who behaves or thinks differently than me. I think the best analogy is to think about a member of your nucleus family, your; mother, father, daughter, son, husband or wife. And they do something that would be considered, as the saying goes, unacceptable in polite society. Maybe they, as Whitney herself has admitted, abuse alcohol or drugs, or maybe they just behave badly in public. Do you think your reaction to this behavior is the same as if someone else, anyone else, behaved the same way? I believe most of us would not react the same, I can honestly say I wouldn’t. As with my own reaction, I believe we have a higher degree of compassion for those in our nucleus, because we view our nucleus as our tribe, everyone else is from another tribe.
I would love for you to try this exercise with me. Chose a member of your nucleus family that you are very tightly associated with, see them doing something very specific that is unacceptable in a public arena, visualize this experience, it can be very simple maybe just saying something hurtful to someone else. How are you feeling? Possibly embarrassed, but go beyond that and really explore how you feel and what your reaction is? Now visualize the same scenario but this time it is someone outside your nucleus and they say or do the same thing to you. How are you feeling? What is your reaction? How is your reaction and feelings different? This is a very insightful exercise. In my case I visualized my son saying something rude to a stranger, and in the latter example I visualized a co-worker saying the same thing to me. In my son’s case I immediately leapt to, his intent is not to hurt their feelings, he doesn’t realize it’s not nice, they don’t know what his condition or experience is so if they react badly it’s because they are ignorant to his lived experience. Now when I visualized my co-worker saying the same thing to me I felt hurt, I felt their intent was malicious; they are trying to attack me. It’s interesting to think about, but most of us, me included, do this to a certain extent every day. The one notable exception is Mother Theresa of Calcutta. She really did see everyone as part of the same tribe, a quote of hers I love that exemplifies her personal philosophy is, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
This all comes down to judgment and we all judge based on our experience and our emotional investment. I believe if we have no emotional investment it is easier to judge others. If we view others as apart from us, it is easier to distance ourselves from any emotional ties and therefore easier to pass judgment on them. Sadly it also means it is easier to treat each other badly and we convince ourselves there are no ill effects to ourselves by doing so. I disagree, as in scientific theory for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, I believe every time we judge others something deep inside of us feels judged and therefore we insidiously tear ourselves down as a result.
So Whitney Houston, rest in peace, while I did not know you I still see you as my sister, you gave me joy, I experienced awe when I heard you sing, and you asked for nothing from me in return. I celebrate your powerful gift that you shared with all of us in the tribe and I send compassion to our tribe as we travel together through the journey of our loss of you.
If we could only judge others as we judge ourselves by intention rather than perceived behavior.